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Lusaka, Monday 16 May 2016: Over sixty officials from law enforcement agencies and financial intelligence are meeting in Zambia this week in a workshop to discuss effective ways of collaborating to strengthen their respective capacities in dealing with money laundering.

The meeting was convened by COMESA Secretariat as part of the European Union supported the regional Maritime Security programme (MASE). The programme is designed to strengthen the region’s capacity to combat money laundering.

Participants are drawn from the police, public prosecution, anti-corruption and customs authorities representing Ethiopia, Kenya, Eritrea, Madagascar, Seychelles, Mauritius, Djibouti, Comoros, Tanzania and Somalia.

It is part of a programme that was designed by COMESA and three other Regional Economic Communities (RECs) namely the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the East African Community (EAC) and the Indian Ocean Community (IOC).

In his opening statement, COMESA Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya described money laundering as a complex vice that requires good intelligence and collaboration.

“Money laundering is a crime that continues to evolve with criminal’s ever designing new and innovative methods of hiding and laundering their illegally gotten money,” Mr Ngwenya said. “Combating it will require very good intelligence as well as highly coordinated efforts coupled with strong levels of commitment by all stakeholders.”

In the statement delivered by the Head of Governance, Peace and Security at COMESA Secretariat, Ms Elizabeth Mutunga, the Secretary General noted that piracy had reduced significantly over the recent times. However, the programme remains relevant not only because the threat of piracy is still there but because money laundering is a transnational crime that does not distinguish between predicate offenses.

He emphasized the need to strengthen structures in order to comprehensively address the crime and cited the recent release of the Panama papers to underscore the seriousness of financial crimes globally. “There is a general observation that financial crime investigation and asset forfeiture are the weakest link in the chain on the fight against money laundering,” Mr. Ngwenya observed.

The regional Maritime Security programme is being implemented by COMESA, the three RECs and supported by Interpol and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) among others is designed to cover all aspects of maritime insecurity with COMESA addressing the part on disrupting the financial networks of pirate financiers, specifically addressing money laundering.

During the four days, the participants will discuss and come up with concrete steps to enhance collaboration within and between jurisdictions and to develop customized, focused and comprehensive capacity building programmes.